Is U.S. blockade against Cuba beginning to end? 2009-04-15 20:08:39   Print

Backgrounder: Brief review on U.S.-Cuba relations

    HAVANA, April 15 (Xinhua) -- The decision by the U.S. government to change its strategy and lift some restrictions on Cuba have aroused multiple reactions in the island, among which there are hopes of a start to the end of the decades-old economic blockade.

    On Easter Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama lifted restrictions on travel and money transfers to Cuba, opening a crack in a 47-year-old embargo against Havana.

    Obama also authorized U.S. telecommunication firms to open up investments in Cuba, as well as to hire radio and television satellite services for people in the Caribbean nation.

    The new measures overturned the policy imposed in 2004 by the Bush White House. The "Transition Plan toward a Free Cuba," also know as Plan Bush, limited money remittances from Cuban Americans to their families to 300 U.S. dollars every quarter, and visits to the island once every three years with each lasting no longer than14 days.

    The ban affected more than 1.5 million Cuban-Americans whose families live in the island country.

    After four years of these harmful measures, the Cuban people felt relief in 2008 when Obama promised during his presidential campaign to lift the ban and to start direct talks with the Cuban government with no preconditions.

    Obama's gesture was hailed by Cuban President Raul Castro who showed his agreement to talk with the United States "without intermediation" and in an "equality of conditions."

    The position was echoed by the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, who reaffirmed in one of his "reflections" published in a Cuban government website on April 6: "We are not afraid to talk with the United States."

    He praised in the same statement the position taken by U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, who is in favor of discussions between the two nations.

    All the goodwill signals shuttling between the two countries culminated in an April visit to Havana by a U.S. Congressional delegation and a surprise meeting with Fidel Castro.

    Six days after the visit, the U.S. announced the lifting of money and travel restrictions toward the communist nation.

    The Cuban reaction, different from before, came on local radio and television immediately after the White House announcement.

    Fidel Castro says the measures are creating conditions so that Obama can use his talent in a constructive policy that ends one that has failed for almost half a century.

    The residents of the island were also happy about the change.

    "They did not lift the blockade, but at least it is a relief. Obama did what he promised and that is something in favor for future talks," said Caridad, a 50-year-old Cuban engineer.

    Pepe, a 70-year-old man who makes a living by delivering bread,said he was tired of so much hostility during the last 13 U.S. administrations and 10 American presidents.

    Obama has so far been silent about revoking the harshest of measures against Cuba but his friendly initiatives have created a favorable atmosphere between the two countries similar to when President Carter was in office from 1977 to 1981.

    During the Carter administration, offices of interest were opened in Washington and Havana, maritime frontiers were established between Cuba, Mexico and the United States, and the right of American citizens to travel to the island was recognized.

    Some Cubans think that the normalization of bilateral relations may take years, while others believe that the most important thing to do is to take the very first steps.

    In the United States, there is a positive opinion toward the normalization of the ties, with 68 percent of those questioned in favor of a change of policies toward Cuba, a survey finds.

Editor: Wang Guanqun
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